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How is your mental health?

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If I posed the question ‘how is your mental health’?  What would your answer be?... Now imagine a response from one of your patients? It’s difficult, right?

Well, its time for some stats;
•    210,540 people were referred for psychological therapies;
•    123,975 entered treatment;
•    It is estimated that 6.1 million people suffer from anxiety and depression disorders in England

I am not going to lie- just like you, I also underestimated the number of people that suffer from anxiety and depression disorders. The worrying thing is, that the actual figures are probably higher due to the stigma attached to mental disorders, which leads to many hiding their plight from health professionals.

Yet, even without this disclosure, the figures are still high. But surely, just like every other disorder there are preventative measures that we can all take to better our mental health? One such measure is increasing our understanding of the symptoms.

People that have panic attacks later develop depression-there is a wide body of research that suggests a strong correlation between the two. I’m not saying that every person that suffers from a panic attack is doomed in developing a serious mental disorder and now they should say bye to everyone while they have time. I’m merely stating that a panic attack is the body’s way of screaming for attention, waving a neon billboard in your face enlightened with fog lights spelling out ‘I need help and something needs to be changed’. But what do most people do? They try to ignore it and carry on with their lives; it is much easier doing that, than trying to modify your actions right? Now let me ask another question who knows better about mental health, a healthcare professional or a general member of the public?

It is all well and good that we know about SSRIs and tricyclics, yet, we miss the borderline depressed/psychotics or anyone who’s mental health is at risk and instead greet them a few months down the line when they bring in their monthly prescriptions for some antidepressants.

Intervention at an early stage could be critical when it comes to mental health. As pharmacists we can play a critical role, but for this to happen, we need to stop being complacent.  We need to stretch our role in every direction, we need to be proactive and get to know our patients and intervene at the right stage.

Ask patients how they are getting on, look out for signs that may indicate they might not be doing so well. I know time is crucial and it may seem that nothing is gained apart from prescription waiting times, but we have to look at the bigger picture; GP times, NHS funding, the economy. Over time the positive effects will shine, until then let’s do our part and get to know our patient’s mental health.

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